How to Manage Store Operations Remotely

05 November 2020

Operations | Retail

Managing frontline store teams in person has always been the default way of managing retail operations. Or at least, it was.

The whole world is now working remotely, and retail operations should be no different. Not only is managing your frontline teams remotely possible, but it’s actually a great opportunity for retailers to thrive under the toughest of circumstances.

Here are 4 ways to switch to remote store operations smoothly and effectively:

#1 Digitize task management

When thinking about remote operations, digitized task management has to be step one of the process. After all, without the right tools, how are you meant to get the job done?

Giving stores tasks and missions via a digitized task management platform - from audit checklists to standard operating procedures to updates on the latest COVID-19 guidelines - ensures that frontline employees have all the information they need at their fingertips.

And with a thorough record of what has and hasn’t been done, HQ gets a full overview of what goes on in every store - which ones are completing every task on time to a high standard, and which ones might need a little extra support to improve their task execution.

Digitized task management is a win for both store teams and HQ. Frontline employees know exactly where they stand and what they need to do, and head office can see the full picture and take the appropriate steps to improve performance across their entire store network.

RELATED: [eBook] Retail Recovery: 4 Ways to Cut Costs and Boost Performance

#2 Switch to remote store visits

Store visits are crucial to the success of a retail network even under normal circumstances, but with frontline staff under more pressure than ever, they are in dire need of the support of field teams to help guide them through the COVID-19 crisis.

But with field teams stretched too thin and the additional health risk of visiting stores in person since the pandemic began, carrying out store visits remotely is the only sensible option right now.

Switching to remote store visits means that field and HQ teams can see what’s happening in stores and view all the relevant data - compliance with guidelines, conversion rate, etc. - and react accordingly, all without having to put employees or customers at greater risk.

Not needing to travel also gives field teams more time to dedicate to supporting all the stores within their network, which can often be difficult to achieve when they’re driving around from site to site with barely any time to process the information.

As well as being practical for the COVID-19 era, there are other benefits to the remote store visit model. All the travelling that field teams would usually do costs the company a lot of money in fuel and accommodation expenses, and the hours spent in cars and on trains is time that could be much better spent actually supporting stores. Investing in remote store visits now will pay off long after the pandemic is over.

RELATED: Best Practices for Remote Store Visits & Audits in the COVID-19 Era

#3 Assign self-evaluations to frontline staff

Carrying out retail operations remotely means that stores will have to carry out self-evaluations, instead of being assessed by field teams.

Bearing in mind how overwhelmed frontline staff are right now - with more work to do than ever before and fewer people on the rota - getting them to also evaluate their own performance can seem like a pretty big ask.

That’s why it’s so important for retailers to give their employees the right tools to self-evaluate easily and effectively. Creating a digitized evaluation form, for example, that clearly explains the criteria, will allow them to give HQ all the information they need so that they can create a tailored action plan based on their answers.

When done well, this has the added benefits of encouraging store autonomy and increasing employee engagement. When frontline employees have a better understanding of what they’re being measured on and they’re able to see their own progress, it motivates them to succeed by being active participants in their own development.

RELATED: How to Improve the Retail & Hospitality Employee Experience

#4 Make remote collaboration between stores and field teams easy

Speaking of employee engagement - how exactly do you maintain engagement when managing retail operations remotely?

With a proper internal training and communications platform, of course!

Having all your communications in one centralized location guarantees that no information gets lost, and no miscommunications can occur. Frontline employees can easily contact field teams with any questions or issues regarding store compliance, out of stock items, COVID-19 safety measures, and whatever else they might need help with.

Making sure that frontline teams feel supported in this way will encourage an open dialogue and greater collaboration between stores, field teams and HQ. And that feeling of connection and teamwork, when nurtured, will continue long after remote operations stop being a necessity.

RELATED: Why Frontline Employees Need a Unified Platform for Training & Internal Communications

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